IN A HARD fought contest, North Ballarat Rebels fell to Dandenong Stingrays by 24 points at Shepley Oval in Dandenong.
The Stingrays have now accounted for two of the Rebels’ three losses this season, matching them for intensity but outplaying them with poise to claim victory on Saturday.
In perfect conditions the Stingrays were able to hunt in numbers and break the lines far better than the Rebels, who struggled to shake free of their opponents, which made kicking consecutive goals a difficult task.
Rebels coach David Loader said it was a below-par performance in what was a finals-like atmosphere.
“I was disappointed that we weren’t able to deliver the type of game we are capable of playing,” Loader said.
“It’s not all doom and gloom, but it is disappointing to lose like that.”
The Stingrays started the match strongly by controlling most of the play and kicking the first two goals of the game, but the Rebels were quick to answer through the exploits of Jake Neade who roved a marking contest superbly and slotted the goal with the outside of his boot.
The ascendancy began to shift back and forth between the two teams in the first half, with both sides going goal for goal for the majority of the half, providing a great spectacle for the crowd in attendance.
At half-time Dandenong led by 17 points, but the Rebels hit back in the third quarter with Kyle Hendy providing a presence around the ground in the ruck and the forward due of Jake Neade and Louis Herbert dangerous about goal.
Late goals to the Stingrays increased the deficit out to 23 points at three-quarter time, making it a difficult task for a Rebels comeback.
The Rebels midfield of Nick Rippon, Martin Gleeson and Matthew Crouch gave their best efforts around the stoppages to peg back the margin in the final term, but it was not enough as the Stingrays finished the match as four-goal victors.
Loader praised the Stingrays, who controlled the majority of the match through their efficient play.
“I think it took a little bit of adjusting to the conditions and the opposition today,” Loader said.
“They dictated the style of play for most of the day.”
North Ballarat now travels to Portland to face the Calder Cannons on Sunday, in a must-win match to remain on top of the TAC Cup ladder.